With sadness, we mourn the news of the passing of University of Toronto alumna Dr. Nona Heaslip (1930-2024). A dramaturgy lover who supported Hart House Theatre for decades, Nona passed away on March 6, 2024.

Nona Heaslip was a champion of Canadian arts, cultural and educational institutions who had deep personal roots in the theatre. She spent a summer acting with the highly respected Hart House Theatre Director Robert Gill, where she additionally connected with Anne Mirvish, sculptor and wife of the late “Honest Ed” Mirvish.

Dr. Nona Heaslip. Credit: Trinity College, U of T.

Nona was a transformational figure in the life of Hart House Theatre. In fact, the William and Nona Heaslip Foundation was the single largest donor to the Theatre. In 2005, she and her husband William Heaslip made a significant donation to the Theatre, and these funds went toward capital renewal, which included a special walkway: Theatre Museum Canada’s MacDonald Heaslip Walkway of Theatre History.

This generous gift allowed for a total overhaul of the Theatre space and fostered the long-term partnership with Theatre Museum Canada. After this, Nona became an annual donor to Hart House Theatre. In 2014, she made a special gift in support of its accessibility work that year.

A pencil sketch of Nona on display in the Hart house Theatre lobby, alongside a sketch of her husband (William Heaslip) and other donors to the Theatre.

Associate Director, Advancement, Peter Wambera sums up Nona’s remarkable contribution and legacy: “Her support – through the William and Nona Heaslip Foundation – was critical to Hart House Theatre’s ability to succeed and create engaging, dynamic content. Her cumulative gifts to this Theatre – from her 2005 capital gift to her loyal annual support – have been essential in helping Hart House Theatre rebuild its educational infrastructure.”

Director of Theatre and Performing Arts, Doug Floyd, emphasizes the historical context of Nona’s contributions. “Hart House Theatre has focused on being a wonderful venue for students and external groups, offering critical supports to their productions. With support from Nona and other generous donors, the Theatre reinvested in its education and training mandate. Donors helped to rebuild the Theatre’s capacity to offer educational opportunities for performers, musicians, directors, designers, etc. Donor support enables the Theatre to fulfill its educational mandate while it also continues its 100+ year role as an entertainment destination for the U of T Community and downtown Toronto.”

MacDonald Heaslip Walkway of Theatre History Gala opening. L to R: Renowned performer and Director David Gardiner, the incomparable Nona Heaslip, Hat House Theatre General Manager Paul Templin, and the legendary Christopher Plummer.

Read more about Nona’s extraordinary life in the Globe & Mail.

Learn more about Hart House Theatre, the focal point for the performing arts at U of T.